O’Neill hails ‘terrific’ O’Brien after scoring on Republic of Ireland debut
The Millwall striker headed Ireland to within three minutes of victory in Wroclaw.
Martin O’Neill was full of praise for Republic of Ireland striker Aiden O’Brien after watching him mark his debut in Poland with a first senior international goal.
Ireland boss O’Neill was without a host of senior players in Wroclaw, but was delighted as a new-look side came within three minutes of a morale-boosting friendly victory which went some of the way towards tempering the pain of a 4-1 Nations League defeat in Wales and the latest controversy surrounding assistant manager Roy Keane.
O’Brien was handed a start in the absence of Shane Long and Jonathan Walters and rewarded his manager with a 53rd-minute header, although his goal was ultimately enough to claim only a 1-1 draw at the Stadion Miejski.
O’Neill said: “I thought Aiden O’Brien was terrific for a debut. We knew what we’d get in terms of effort from him. He doesn’t always play for Millwall, but when he does, he gives you everything.
“He hasn’t played centre-forward for a long time – he plays left midfield. But he attempted to hold it up for us and gave us strength and brought others in.”
Substitute Mateusz Klich eventually rescued Poland, who drew 1-1 in Italy during their Nations League opener 24 hours after the Republic’s horror show in Cardiff, with an 87th-minute equaliser and it was a measure of Ireland’s performance that they headed for home disappointed.
O’Neill said: “We were beaten on Thursday night and they had great result in Italy, so it was going to be difficult.
“We played exceptionally well and should have won the game. We defended very strongly. We tried to play as well as them and we succeeded.
“We needed that. We are judged on performances and results. The players responded brilliantly.”
Like O’Neill, Poland boss Jerzy Brzeczek made six changes and although his side had the better of the first half, they needed a late surge to emerge with something to show for their efforts.
Brzeczek said: “We didn’t have the same chances as we did against Italy. We simply lacked players who could speed up the ball and speed up the game.
“We drew attention to it during the break. The second half was important for development of this team and we have used the game well. This is a young team and we are only at the start.”